life

Last Letter from Rishikesh

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Dear Friends,

This is the last letter from Rishikesh, as I’ll be leaving tomorrow. It’s incredible that a month has flown by. image

This month has been about meetings and encounters. Unfortunately, I usually didn’t have my phone or camera, so few photos were taken of the fantastic people I met from all over the world: Australia, Denmark, The States, Germany, etc. Lasting friendships have begun here.

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In the month, I practiced yoga, meditated consistently, listened to swamis elaborate on ego and love; walked along the sandy shores of the Ganga; journeyed high into the mountains; ate ridiculously good paneer and pancakes when ashram food got too boring for words; learned and forgot Hindi words; evolved my wardrobe into one with more color; spent days in silence; and encountered the greatest energy in meditation, which blew my mind and heart wide open.

Sundays are our free day at the ashram, so today will be spent 1) washing some clothes and hanging them on the balcony’s clothesline 2) buying a few souvenirs 3) eating an hours-long lunch at The Beatles Cafe and watching the sunset 4) meeting friends for dessert (maybe carrot cake and butterscotch ice-cream) 5) going to the kirtan at Yoga Chakra Hall.

You see how quickly a day can pass– eating, laughing, talking, thinking, writing, laughing, listening?! Each day the same, each day new.

Love,

Val

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life

4 Lessons From My Father

Hi Friends,

Last night, I spoke to my father on Skype for over an hour, because there was much to catch up on. His directness, combined with his no-nonsense tone, over the years, has never ceased to amaze, amuse or annoy me, and that has been mutual. Strangely, he encouraged my childhood precociousness, but that outspokenness and verve led to many of our clashes. “Children are to be seen and not heard” wasn’t a maxim used in my house, but I know, as the child and not peer, I overly exercised the right to speak a few times.

It’s always been said that we’re too much alike, and therein lay many of our conflicts; however, now that I’m many years beyond my “problem years,” I can see that he’s done what only a parent can– be brutally honest for the greater good. We’ve both mellowed out a lot. (It had to happen, right?)

With time, I’m recognizing some of the lessons he tried to impart, that completely infuriated me then, and the new ones that I really appreciate:

1) Be responsible with your money. Once, when I was 23, I asked my father to borrow $40, to which he answered  “No.” I couldn’t believe it, ’cause I needed the cash, and I knew that he had it. It all seemed so unfair and selfish that it rankled me to the core. Why should I be held accountable for the money I earned, when there was cash that could be borrowed. I never forgot that, and it took years for me to see that he was right. I, also, never forgot that a week later he sent me a check for $200 to “help,” and a note about money management. (The message is just now registering.)

2) Show up on time. Jamaicans are allergic to clocks, and watches (except as fashion statements), but my father shows up early for every occasion. It’s so un-Jamaican of him– this punctuality thing, and it must boil down to his many years of living and working in New York. I hear there may be others like him, but I’ve never met them. He once told me that a funeral we were attending started two hours earlier than it really did, because he wanted me to get there at 1pm, the designated time. When I showed up late, and somewhat amused that I had been deceived, he only replied that if he’d said the correct time, we would have been late and disrespectful to the family of the deceased. Point taken. It’s only in the last three years that the message has taken root. Time is the most valuable commodity anyone has, and someone who shows up late (repeatedly) doesn’t know its worth.

3) Be good to others. There was a childhood Christmas that I distinctly remember where my brother and I had to choose the gift we liked the most, drive with our parents to an impoverished neighborhood, and give it to a less fortunate child. The lessons that were important to learn then were: 1) We were fortunate to have what we had, and our good fortune should be shared 2) No one is beneath or above us, especially not due to finances. We’re connected on a deeper level. 3) Giving feels even better than receiving.

4) Be crazy. There were three things that my father said to me constantly while growing up, “Ma nishtana halila hazeh,” (loosely translated as “Why should this day be different from any other”), “Lusmishinup,” (spelling and language unknown– but essentially, “Shut up” said affectionately), and “I’m going crazy, you wanna come?” There were times in my childhood when we’d be sitting around, and my father would get the car keys and say, “I’m going crazy, you wanna come?” The act of spontaneity, the getting up and going on an adventure, always resulted in happiness. Mind you, the “crazy” was never very crazy at all– Devon House for an ice-cream cone, a drive around town, to the house of one his friends for conversation where I played with one of the kids or listened to the adults talk about things I couldn’t understand as someone’s pipe smoke lingered over my head, a drive for a patty, a respite from the ordinariness of life. In all my years, my travels have never been as exciting as going along for the ride and “going crazy,” and I’ve never forgotten that it’s important to get up and get moving sometimes.

Last night, my father said, “What’s this India thing I read on your blog? How many pieces of you are there that you still need to find yourself?” He made me laugh, though his question was serious. There are so many pieces of all of us, discoverable and undiscoverable, but I’m so thankful to my father that many identifiable pieces are whole and intact– awareness, esteem, humor. He was never a softie, or the teddy bear type of dad, but his actions spoke of many things incommunicable by words.

Love,

Val

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Elevate Your Mood

Do you not know that we are fearfully and marvelously made? That we have been custom-designed to play a unique role in history, that is separate and distinct from anybody else in the world? Nobody else has your fingerprint, nobody else has your voice print, nobody else will ever be you. There’s never been a you before, there’ll never be a you after you, you’re in a class all by yourself. — T.D Jakes

Dear Friends,

These days I’m feeling euphoric, so much so that I’ve restarted the glad list for a week of gratitude. (I know some of you are highly annoyed by extreme bursts of joy and “gladness,” so please skip this until you’re in a better mood…or maybe, by some chance something in here will lighten your mood.) Fingers crossed.

The point of the glad list is to start noting things, no matter how small, that put a smile on your face. It’s been scientifically proven that you can elevate your mood by training your thoughts to be more positive.So here goes:

1) As you know, I’m moving to Germany in a few months, so last night my wonderful friend D left a German cd with eighteen lessons in my locker at work. I did lesson 1 twice, and it’s exciting that I can now say , “No, I don’t understand German,” “I understand English,” “I understand a little German,” “Do you understand English?” Awesome friends and a little more knowledge is something to be glad about.

2) In Ubud, I had a session with a nutritionist and spoke for an hour about the foods I should and shouldn’t be eating. Granted, I could’ve bought a book or done the research, but meeting with the nutritionist was fantastic, because she looked at my nails, tongue and eyes to see what was lacking. It’s easy to eat well in Ubud, because the town is devoted to health, but when I came back to Tokyo, I fell, again, into bad habits– chocolate, popsicles, pasta almost everyday, cheese, cheese and more cheese. (Let’s be honest, everything tastes better with cheese.)

Two weeks, it hit me that my diet really needed to change, so I’ve been eating an abundance of vegetables, nuts, some fruit, and drinking much green tea and water. I’ve been cooking the vegetables, for only a few minutes, with garlic, olive oil and a touch of sea salt, and I must tell you that my energy is through the roof and my skin is smoother. Eat your veggies!

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3) On the blog, Bodhi, I came across the greatest post (http://bodhilove.wordpress.com/a-month-without/), which introduced the blog Zen Habits (http://zenhabits.net/). Zen Habits is an amazing blog filled with tips on living simply, more centered, and with purpose.  So for the millionth time, I hope I’ve finally broken my Facebook habit. I hadn’t been on in awhile, but last night I deactivated the account altogether. Last week, before even reading Zen Habits, I’d disconnected my cellphone service (smartphone’s are a trap), so I’m reachable only twice a day via the Internet (email (valerieasmith7@gmail.com), Skype, and LINE). It’s freeing not to be constantly checking for email updates, etc or have to answer messages immediately or be filled with guilt; if you didn’t know, now you know. So, what’re you glad about?

This is your moment, this is your day. Everything you’ve gone through in the past was getting you ready for this moment right now!– T.D Jakes

Love,

Val

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Glad List- #7

Hi Friends,

Day 7. Seven days of gratitude for all sorts of things, and it’s been fun. Since it’s been such an enjoyable experience, I’ll start the list again in a few days. (The next few days will be filled with work, more work, a short out of town trip to Gunma, and one or two parties over the weekend– a good week!).

Today’s topic of gladness is something that the very cold days might’ve given you a clue was coming–

1) On MSN.com’s Health section yesterday, they had an article on the myths and facts of home remedies that fight common ailments. One of the remedies listed the benefits of onions; the experts stated that onions were especially effective in chicken soup. You know where my mind went, right? Yes. A pot of chicken soup.

When I got in from my morning classes, and my run to Precce, I cooked up a pot of chicken soup. They say the third time’s the charm, and whoever they are aren’t lying, because it was the best one yet. I cleaned out the vegetable aisle, and the soup contains not only onions, but okra, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, leeks, mushrooms, chicken, thyme, bay leaves, and some green things that I don’t know the name of.

You know those people that won’t stop showing you pictures of their baby, even though you’ve expressed no interest? That’s how it is with my soup, but I just can’t help but show you… it’s so beautiful. (By the way, don’t be offended that I compared a pot of chicken soup to your baby. Surely, you understand creation, etc….).

Early stages of the process.

Early stages of the process.Take care,

Val

Addendum: From MSN health 12/4/12:

Your mom or grandmother may have raised you to believe that there’s something magical about chicken soup when it comes to treating a cold or flu, but is it true? Yes, says Dr. Sharp. “Turns out, there’s some real science behind this,” he says, explaining that chicken soup may have a positive effect on the immune system with something called neutrophil aggregation — which means “bringing white blood cells together.” White blood cells help fight off infection in your body and are integral to helping you feel better faster. While it’s not clear if other broths or hot beverages have similar immune system benefits, Dr. Sharp says hot liquids like tea and broth can help reduce the symptoms of a cold or flu virus, relieving sinus and throat pain.

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Glad List- #6

Today’s been such a quiet day– quiet, but easy and relaxing. When I got home, I was thinking, “I have to write my glad list, but nothing happened. What will I write?”

I wondered: Should the “glad” thing of the day be that it didn’t rain; or that my morning started with Tiease advising me to wear long johns, a small but sweet thing; or that two of my favorite students took lessons today, so I had two hours and forty minutes of enjoyable conversation; or that my last student didn’t show, so I could leave early; or that my sushi bento from Takashimaya was fresh and an ocean of goodness; or that I’m now surrounded by warmth (literally); or that Juliano introduced me to ,  a cheerful, upbeat Brazilian song espousing pure adoration for Tokyo (and many places in-between), and it makes me smile every time I give it a listen.

Pretty soon, it hit me, that nothing has to happen; the whole point is to be glad.

1) I’m glad that I came upon this quote on the Osho page on FB:

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Feel thankful,

and never demand in your prayers

because all demand is complaint deep down.

Just thank.

Let every prayer be only that of thankfulness, a

thanks-giving.

 

Never ask, and you will be surprised:

continuously gifts start coming-

gifts that you had asked for and gifts

that you never asked for.

 

Take care,

Val

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p.s Warning: Don’t listen to this song if you don’t want to dance or feel joyful.

Me gusta tokio
 Mira los karnako
 Me gusta tokio

……………………………..me gusta jamaica
 Me gusta brasil me gusta guiné bissau
 Me gusta españa me gusta africana
 Me gusta istambul me gusta los andes
 Me gusta barretos me gusta peru
 Me gusta barramas me gusta pequim
 Me gusta moscou me gusta lo reggae
 Me gusta lo samba e o rock and roll

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The Glad List- #5

Hi Friends,

As most of you know, when I moved to the U.S at eleven, I wasn’t very happy. It didn’t really help matters that I moved in the fall, and the temperatures were below eighty degrees, soon to be below seventy. It also didn’t help matters that I was a still developing (ok, not even yet starting to develop) underweight kid in a junior high school of girls who looked twenty-five. Plus, my father insisted that I dress and look my age: no makeup, no nail polish, no jewelry, etc. etc. Now, really!

There were two things that made me extremely happy in Long Island though– Pizza Hut and Dominos (in that order). The year I left Jamaica, there was one pizzeria– Shakey’s. For some insane reason, I hated pizza then. I thought it was weird and too cheesey. However, when I moved to L.I, there was pizza at every sleepover, birthday party, and lunch. Pizza became not only my best friend, but my most fulfilling and filling relationship to date.

As I told you a month ago, it came to my attention that I had to cut dairy from my diet (or face the consequences), and I can’t remember ever feeling so sad by any news. However, I missed my best friend, and decided that we should meet up tonight, even if she hurts me to the core. So, tonight, I’m glad for:

1) My small Pizza Hut cheese pizza (just a few slices will be consumed) and my small Haagen-Daz green tea ice-cream. My tongue’ll be so pleased, as “this is the moment” to eat pizza.

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Take care,

Val

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The Glad List- #2

Hi Guys,

Yesterday was the start of the glad list, and it seems today it’s almost too easy. It’s been given to me on a platter, — PAYDAY!–, so I figured I’d need to look elsewhere. When is hard-earned (or easily-earned) money ever something not to grin about?

1) Tokyo was ten degrees warmer today than yesterday. It rained, but I was in a deep sleep dreaming about driving while it was, because I had no morning classes…

2) Work didn’t start until 5:30 pm today, and what was done today could hardly be called work. Had two students for forty minutes, one cancellation, and another class in another location. After the last lesson of the day, went with M and A, who were also working in Roppongi, to a neighborhood bar for one drink. One Glenlivet on the rocks. It is payday after all. (Do people with a lot of money get excited about payday, or is it just another day for them?)

3) It’s ridiculous that I’ve been studying French for umpteen years, and can barely speak a lick– despite Rosetta Stone, despite Alliance Francaise, despite books and cds. There’s absolutely no excuse. However, a very kind co-worker gave me a lesson today, and promises to continue. (It is a language school after all). With dedication and perseverance, French will become as native to me as pig Latin… um, as English.

See you tomorrow,

Val

p.s I know I wrote three things and not one, but why not?

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